President Joe Biden said Wednesday the U.S. would not supply Israel with certain weapons and artillery shells if its military invades Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where more than 1 million people are sheltering.

If the Israeli military launches a ground offensive in Rafah, the administration will not supply “the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities,” Biden said in an interview on CNN.

“We’re not going to supply the weapons and the artillery shells used,” Biden said.

The move would mark a shift in U.S. policy toward the war, though Biden said the U.S. would “continue to make sure Israel is secure in terms of Iron Dome and their ability to respond to attacks.”

Biden also said Israel has used the 2,000-pound bombs — the type his administration halted in a planned shipment last week — to kill Palestinian civilians.

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers,” he said when he was asked about the paused shipment of U.S. weapons to Israel.

NBC News has reported that the White House halted a shipment of offensive weapons last week that included 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs, according to a senior administration official.

An Israeli official told NBC News there was deep frustration in the Israeli government over the decision as Israel’s military prepares to launch an expected ground offensive in Rafah.

The country’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, said the U.S. pause was “a very disappointing decision, even frustrating.” He suggested in an interview with Israeli Channel 12 TV news that the move stemmed from domestic political pressure on Biden.

Israel’s right-wing national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, offered a more hardline reaction. “Hamas ❤️ Biden,” he said in a post on X that drew swift criticism from Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, and others.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the country’s military would enter the city “with or without” a deal with Hamas.

Israel demands that Rafah be walled off from a cease-fire deal, according to four current and one former U.S. officials familiar with the discussions.

Netanyahu’s government refuses to agree to a deal unless it can move forward with military operations in Rafah, even during a cease-fire, the officials said.

An Israeli official denied that characterization, citing recent remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who said, “This operation will continue until we eliminate Hamas in the Rafah area and the entire Gaza Strip or until the first hostage returns.”

Biden has reiterated his opposition to the Rafah offensive in calls with Netanyahu, according to White House readouts of their ‘ conversations.

Biden also touched on his administration’s work with Arab states regarding the Israel-Hamas war, saying in the CNN interview that “five leaders in the Arab community were prepared to help rebuild Gaza, prepared to help transition to a two-state solution.”

Asked for clarity about whether the leaders would help govern the area, Biden said they would work to “maintain the security and peace while they’re working out a Palestinian Authority that’s real and not corrupt.”


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